Burning Man Third Space

An Oasis in the Desert

Text by Melanie Picard 

A few weeks ago, we talked about how the swissnex San Francisco team was playing Sim City in the Black Rock Desert by taking on the challenge of bringing an art piece to the famous festival.

Now that Burning Man has shrunk back into dusty nothingness, now that the team is back to the real world and has washed away all the sand, it is time to collect and share impressions from artists Alexander Deubl, Alexander Rehn, and Bianca Keck about The Third Space and how Burners interacted with it.

The Third Space is a triangular spider web of 250,000 zip ties clutching a wooden skeleton. It’s a walk-in and even a sit-on interactive piece. The initial idea of creating a seating area out of zip ties came from Alexander Rehn back in 2009 when he was studying interior design together with Alexander Deubl and Bianca Keck at the Academy of Arts in Munich in a class taught by Swiss professors and designers, Carmen and Urs Greutmann. Fifty-two students worked on it for 16,870 hours until the final Third Space was created.

Burning Man Third Space   Burning Man Third Space

When we asked them how people at Burning Man reacted to the piece, Keck and Deubl both uttered the same recollection: “They were amazed.” Why? First, because of the unexpected use of zip ties. Zip ties were a part of many Burning Man installations, but they were often used as tools to hold structures together, not as unique building materials themselves. Second, because of the silence. In this world of (loud) sounds, The Third Space differentiated itself by being a noiseless and harmonious place. “It was like a oasis,” said Deubl, remembering how people came to relax and rest. In fact, a Burning Man culture blog named The Third Space the “Best Art of Burning Man 2012.”

Bringing the piece to the desert was a success for sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was hard to maintain out on the playa. The team had to repair it constantly, and it took an hour each day to clean the dust from broken pieces. Humans and zip ties suffered from the dust and heat, but when all was said and done, the whole team agreed that it was a fruitful experience. And would they do it again? Of course!